Comptroller-Elect Lander Wants to Change Yeshiva Education: a Task not in his Job Description

Comptroller-Elect Lander Wants to Change Yeshiva Education: a Task not in his Job Description

By Yehudit Garmaise

Comptroller-elect Brad Lander, (D), said last week that he will do everything he can to persuade yeshivas to teach secular subjects so that they are “substantially equivalent” to public school education, however setting New York City educational curricula is the job of the state's Department of Education (DOE): not the city’s comptroller.

Lander, who represented Brooklyn’s 39th District in the City Council for 12 years, has acknowledged that he does not have the power to change the curricula of yeshivas.

Instead, he hopes to proceed with Jewish schools in a way that creates a “pathway to compliance.”

“The state law is very clear that all schools, including private and parochial schools, have an obligation to deliver substantially comparable and competent secular education, especially where the city is contracting with those schools for transportation and books,” said Lander, on Thursday night, in a virtual Q-and-A with the New York Jewish Agenda, a progressive policy group he co-founded. “It is a responsibility as a whole and the comptroller, in particular, to be paying attention, and audit and make sure those obligations are being met.”

The comptroller, of course, is answerable to the mayor, who only affects the state's DOE indirectly, such as, through his position of power and through communicating with the city’s schools, Mayor-elect Adams has said.

Nevertheless, Adams has said that he understands that different children and different communities want and need different things in their educations.

“Children have a right to receive the best education, and not all communities, and not all parents take the same approach,” Adams told BoroPark24 during his mayoral run. “So, it is really essential that the government works with different communities and cultures to adopt structures that reach communities’ needs so that we can really deliver the best education.”

Adams was even open to the idea that yeshiva educations’ different curricula be included under the city’s often-professed respect for cultural diversity and openness to different cultural viewpoints and values, such as the community cohesion that yeshivas’ curricula provide.

“We should be leaning into all of the various schools’ formats, programs, and [be thinking] how do we come up with a better product?”

Lander, who said as the city’s “chief accountability officer” will be able to audit yeshivas and determine which ones’ educational standards fall below the state’s standards, the city’s incoming comptroller said that he does not aim to “do a ‘gotcha’ audit that gets a headline on the cover of the Times,” he said. “The goal of the work is the win change…making sure that our yeshivas provide the education that our kids need and deserve is part of our job together and one that I’m going to be spending time on.”   

Photo by Flickr

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